Overlooking the Center of Maribor from a Church Bell Tower
The polymer clay arts are alive and well in the tiny but beautiful country of Slovenia. Bordered by the countries of Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, this amazing country has a population of just over two million people. The geography is widely varied from sweeping meadowlands and rolling hills to mountains which offer snow skiing and seaside resorts.
I was lucky enough to be one of several teachers to be featured in the week-long Creative Festival organized by a small chain of bead/art and craft stores known as Art Trade and Beadsi. The owners Primoz and MIhaela brought in artist instructors in several mediums including paint, Pergamano, jewelry making and more.
I taught a total of nine workshops in polymer clay and mixed media, all of which took place in Maribor's (Slovenia's second largest city) Europark Mall. Most of the classes were held in the central mall where dozens of on-lookers could stop to watch the all of the excitement. It was a wonderful way to spread the joy of clay and creativity to a whole new audience each day. Several of the Art Store's wonderfully knowledgable employees helped out in my workshops including wonderful translation for those who didn't speak English (thanks Barbara, Anne and Tonja!) I was overwhelmed by the gifts of chocolates, hand-made artwork/jewelry, and flowers that many of my students brought me.
Each workshop was filled with eager artists of all ages. Both newbies and experienced polymer clay artists participated including a few who traveled from other countries for the event. I was excited to see how deeply embraced and evolved the polymer clay medium was in Slovenia. It was surreal to see my face on billboards located around the mall along with the beautiful display of my products at the entrance to the store. It was an honor to be asked (along with the other instructors) to judge an art competition. Entries of giant rabbits (in honor of the upcoming Easter holiday) were on display from area elementary schools. In the end, two projects tied for the win based on their humor and best use of natural materials among the judging criteria.
The people of Slovenia are incredibly warm and friendly. Thanks to my hosts, I enjoyed world class cuisine on a daily basis. Another wonderful experience was the chance to learn firsthand, more about the historic city of Maribor; named Europe's City of Culture for 2012. One of my translators -the lovely Barbara - gave the visiting teachers an amazing walking tour of the city, including a visit to the museum where the world's oldest grape vine grows. The accompanying wine tasting really enhanced the entire experience. Wine grapes are grown in abundance and Slovenian wines are among the best I've ever tasted! As if the opportunity to teach at this wonderful event wasn't enough, my hosts treated me to a day trip to see the coastal resort town of Piran (the town square, seen on the left) and one of my favorite cities in the world - Venice, Italy!
I have to say that even though the space is tight, the Art store at the Europark Mall is incredibly well organized and packs in an amazing variety of products in dozens of mediums. Their store in the heart of Maribor (Beadsi) is a jewelry of creative products in a beautifully designed and well thought out store. The rolling, vertical bead bins are to die for! I only wish we had stores like this in the United States. More photos from the event and my trip can be viewed in the "Slovenia" album of the blog. If you ever get a chance to visit this wonderful country and both of these terrific stores (wonderlands of creativity!) don't hesitate to do it. You won't be sorry!